Step-Up to a New Fitness Aesthetic

Step-Up to a New Fitness Aesthetic

“There’s big business in boutique fitness now, why don’t you design interiors for them?” I was asked recently by a well-meaning gent.

“Define ‘boutique fitness’,” I said.

“Well, they concentrate on one or two specific disciplines. Tend to be more intimate concerns. Training is more exclusive and members less anonymous. They are very popular!”

I nodded. “Already on it.”

“Oh, good! Sorry, I thought you said you designed for martial arts academies…”

I smiled.

Certainly, boutique fitness is trending right now, and in many ways martial arts academies fit this niche. They are left of mainstream, offer exclusivity in their disciplines, and instructors know members and their abilities personally.

Yet, no one refers to martial arts clubs in ‘boutique’ terms.

I do understand why. Bouti-gyms offer full immersion for members in attractive, luxuriant theatres of fitness and deliver on high-end lifestyle extras – designer shower gel, anyone? Martial arts clubs on the other hand have a more grab-and-go approach, with many students heading home immediately after class still in their gis, often without even taking a shower.

And how many sensei or sifu do you know who will offer gentle direction to an in-club smoothie bar so that students can recover over skinny lattes and protein shakes?

Urban-based bouti-gyms offer super-luxe to affluent adults.

Martial arts clubs appeal at grass-roots and to kids.

But while not perhaps looking for a place at the boutique table, martial arts club owners and instructors can still take a knife and fork to what this current trend is doing well – and that is catering to the specific tastes of its clients so that everyone gets more than froth from the experience.

If we take it that the main client base for martial arts is young people, what can club owners do then to excite and encourage these members in to class and make them want to rinse and repeat?

Well, lots of things, much of which I’ll leave to business experts like NEST to discuss. For the purposes of this blog though, let’s start the focus on club interiors and visual impact.

When it comes to interiors and kids, colour is king. Colour affects mood and placed wisely serves to energise, calm or soothe.

I know some people get nervous about painting with any colour. Academy owners especially appear reluctant to carry ‘bold’ further than the floor and a statement of blue and red mats.

But trust me, primary colours zing when it comes to stimulating young senses.

So, how do you incorporate colour without making your hallowed dojo look like a fairground attraction or causing your ‘adults’ to leave, wearing sunglasses and a headache?

Colour can be introduced in measured ways, whatever your club style. Try bringing in brightly-hued chairs or cube seating for spectating families. Splash shade on clothes hooks and benches in changing rooms. Give lockers a full metallic jacket. Add wall graphics – motifs and images or motivational quotes. Stick on coloured, peelable window vinyl. Punch up roller banners. Paint doors and skirting boards to contrast or pop.

If you have a more traditional dojo and don’t want decor to shout above a whisper, go for muted colours and incorporate texture or pattern. Grasscloth, rattan weave and bamboo wall-coverings look and feel amazing, and the play of light through a shoji screen will fascinate young students.

Mirrors, too, bounce light and colour around, give kids a fun, fighting chance to check out their moves, and make room proportions look epic.

Boutique gyms have stepped up the fitness aesthetic.

But martial arts can compete.

Take a fresh walk-through your club. See it from your customer’s eye view.

Is it time to kick-in with colour?

About the author: Moira Spencer previously enjoyed a long, successful career in publishing sports titles, including Martial Arts Illustrated and MMA Uncaged magazines. Now qualified in Professional Interior Design, she has combined this creativity with her knowledge and understanding of the sports industry to launch Glove & Lotus, an interior design consultancy specifically for sports academies, clubs, studios and home gyms. For more details on this unique service, visit phone 0787 8750045 or email

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